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Sir Richard Cocks: The Political Anatomy of a Country Whig*

  • David Hayton

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Sir Richard Cocks (c. 1659–1726) was a rare bird among the crook-taloned specimens perching on the back benches of King William III's House of Commons. He seems to have displayed every hallmark of that declining species, the Country Whig; impeccably Whiggish, indubitably rustic, learned in Greek and Roman history and versed in contemporary neo-Harringtonian literature; profoundly tolerant and resolutely erastian in his religious inclinations, even somewhat Puritan in outlook. He supported the Revolution settlement but opposed a standing army and entertained a healthy suspicion of placemen; approved of trade but distrusted the new power of finance; assisted Quakers and inveighed against priestcraft. What is more, he was never tempted to compromise his principles with the taint of office, nor to forsake his patriotism for Treasury gold. Old Whig, radical Whig, Roman Whig, Vulgar Whig, and independent country gentleman rolled into one, he stood almost alone among his fellow M.P.s, sometimes literally as well as metaphorically. Unlike the vast majority of these parliamentary colleagues, he left posterity a detailed record of his opinions, in the form of two albums or memoranda-books, now in the possession of the Bodleian Library, a handful of letters and essays scattered through various repositories, and a clutch of publications, religious tracts and charges delivered to grand juries in his native Gloucestershire. Of those contemporaries who kept diaries or preserved their personal papers the one whose social and political profile perhaps most resembles Cocks's is the Yorkshire baronet Sir Arthur Kaye, a Country Tory rather than a Country Whig, and with an archive of parliamentary diaries, letters, and speeches, mostly dating from the 1710s, that is nowhere near as extensive. Cocks's writings offer a unique opportunity to examine some of the thought processes at work in the mind of a rank-and-file Country Whig in what might be considered the golden age of Country Whiggery at the turn of the seventeenth century.

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*

An earlier version of this article was presented to a seminar at the Folger Center for the History of British Political Thought, which is supported by grants from the Research Programs Division of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, the George Washington University, and the Exxon Foundation. I am very grateful to the convenor of the seminar. Professor Howard Nenner, and to the members, especially Professors J. G. A. Pocock and Lois G. Schwoerer, for their close interest and criticism.

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1 Bodleian Library, MS. Eng. hist. b. 209–10 (hereafter cited as Cocks MSS. 1, 2). Subsequently the Bodleian acquired a further batch of Cocks papers, in the form of a few loose sheets of letters, essays, drafts, etc., which are now MS. Eng. misc. b. 433, ff. 30–5. Citation is made by kind permission of the Keeper of Western Manuscripts. I am also greatly obliged to Miss Betty Kemp and Professor Henry Horwitz for access to their earlier transcripts from the memoranda-books.

2 Staffordshire Record Office (hereafter cited as R.O.), Dartmouth MSS., D(W) 1778/III/156; D(W) 1778/V/202. For Kaye see Holmes, G., British Politics in the Age of Anne (London, 1967), pp. 123–4; Roebuck, P., “The County Squirearchy and the Fight for Place in the Early Eighteenth Century,” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 46 (1974).

3 For what follows, see Cocks, J. V. Somers, A History of the Cocks Family, 4 parts, privately printed (Teignmouth, 19661967), esp. pt. 3, pp. 38–56, 76, 97104. I am very grateful to Mr. Somers Cocks for lending me a copy of this work, and for advice about Sir Richard and the Cocks family.

4 Cocks MS. 1, f. 104v.

5 The engraving, by Kip, is printed in SirAtkyns, Robert, The Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire … 2nd edn. (London, 1768). In this book, first published in 1712, Atkyns wrote of Cocks that he “is lord of the manor and has a handsome seat near the church; the whole parish belongs to him” (p. 212). The title “knight of Dumbleton” comes from Gray, Z., The Knight of Dumbleton Foiled at his Own Weapon … (London, 1723).

6 Sachse, W. L., Lord Somers: A Political Portrait (Manchester, 1975), pp. 96–7, 107–8, 137–8, 298–9; Cocks MS. 1, ff. 38, 85v, 76, 71; Letter-Books of John Hervey, First Earl of Bristol … 1651 to 1750, ed. Hervey, S. H. A., Suffolk Green Books 1, 3 vols. (Wells, 1894), 1: 199. In his defense of Somers in May 1701 Cocks declared, “I live in the neighbourhood near him, I have known him as long as I have known anybody, in all the parts of his life” (Cocks MS. 1, f. 71). In quotations from the Cocks manuscripts, and other contemporary documents, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been modernized.

7 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 36, 90. For Neville, see the D.N.B. and Two English Republican Tracts … ed. Robbins, Caroline (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 520.

8 M.I., St Peter's parish church, Dumbleton.

9 Cocks had been admitted to Oriel College, Oxford, in 1677: Shadwell, C. L., Registrum Orielense, 2 vols. (London, 18931902), 1: 356. Typically, he remembered his tutor as a sot (Cocks MS. 1, f. 89v).

10 For evidence of Robert Cocks's Whiggery, see Remarks and Collections of Thomas Hearne…, ed. Doble, C. E., et al., 11 vols. (Oxford Historical Society, 18851921), 1: 304; Glassey, L. K. J., Politics and the Appointment of Justices of the Peace 1675–1720 (Oxford, 1979), p. 213; and three of his sermons: The Great Importance of a Meek and Merciful Spirit. A Sermon Preached at the Temple-Church, July 4, 1714 (London, 1714), esp. pp. 15–18, 20; Nothing but Religion Can Secure Our Peace and Happiness … A Sermon Preached at the Last Warwick Assizes … (London, 1715), p. 13; and a sermon preached at Woodstock, 29 Sept. 1721, the text of which is given at British Library, Add. MS. 61468, ff. 166–74, esp. f. 170.

11 Longleat MSS. (the Marquess of Bath, Longleat House, Wiltshire), Thynne papers, XIII, ff. 256–7.

12 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 1–46v, passim.

13 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 31, 39–40.

14 Autobiography of Thomas Raymond and Memoirs of the Family of Guise of Elmore, Gloucestershire, ed. Davies, G., Camden 3rd sen, 28 (London, 1917), p. 140.

15 Cocks MS. 1, f. 93v.

16 B.L., Loan 29/154, Robert Price to Robert Harley, 30 Mar. 1702; The Letters of Daniel Defoe, ed. Healey, G. H. (Oxford, 1955), p. 111; Bodl. Lib., MS. Ballard 31, f. 50; Post Man, 15–18 May 1708.

17 Cocks MS. 2, f. 30.

18 Cocks MS. 2, ff. 23–65, passim.

19 Hervey Letter-Books, 1: 182, 199–200, 205–7, 215–20, 229–30, 262–6, 270–5, 302–3, 335–9, 389–90; 2: 11–12; Cocks MS. 2, ff. 63–4.

20 Gloucestershire R.O., D.340a/C22/10, 12 (Ducie MSS.), Cocks to Matthew Ducie Moreton, 17 Aug. 1714, Richard Mariett to same, 4 Oct. 1714.

21 Hervey Letter-Books, 2: 11; Sir Richard Cocks His Charge to the Grand-Jury of the County of Gloucester at the General Quarter-Sessions … April the 30th 1717 (1717); Cocks, , A Charge Given to the Grand-Jury of the County of Gloucester at the Midsummer Sessions, 1723 (London, 1723).

22 A Perfect Discovery of the Longitude (London, 1721); The Church of England Secur'd; the Toleration Act Enervated; and the Dissenters Ruin'd and Undone (London, 1722); Over Shoes, Over Boots; Being a Second Part of the Church of England Secur'd … (London, 1722). For evidence of his having been ill, see Grand Jury Charge 1723, pp. 3–4, and for a diagnosis, Cocks MS. 2, f. 23.

23 Sir R-d C-ks' His Farewel Sermon (London, 1722); A True and Impartial Inquiry Made into the Late Bloody Execution at Thorn … (London, 1727). The date of his death, not given in Somers Cocks, Hist. Cocks Fam., may be found in Historical Register, 1726, Chron., p. 40.

24 Over Shoes, Over Boots, p. 7; A Perfect Discovery of Longitude, p. 17.

25 True and Impartial Inquiry, p. 9, plagiarizing Over Shoes, Over Boots, p. 12.

26 Over Shoes, Over Boots, p. 7.

27 Ibid., p. 18; Davenant, C., Tom Double Returned out of the Country (London, 1702), p. 13; Hearne Collections, 7: 372.

28 A Pair of Clean Shoes for a Dirty Baronet, Who Was Lately Terribly Mir'd by Wading beyond His Depth in Controversy … By a Lover of the Clergy (London, 1722), p. 37.

29 Cocks MS. 2, f. 9.

30 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 93–92v, 84; 2, f. 8.

31 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 85, 78, 76.

32 For Egmont and his methods, see H.M.C., Egmont Diary, 1: vi, x–xi; The Parliamentary Diary of Sir Edward Knatchbull 1722–30, ed. Newman, A. N., Camden 3rd sen, 94 (1963), App. C, pp. 124–30; Hayton, D. W., “An Irish Parliamentary Diary from the Reign of Queen Anne,” Analecta Hibernica 30 (1982): 105–6. A slightly different practice is described in The Diaries and Papers of Sir Edward Dering Second Baronet 1644 to 1684, ed. Bond, M. F. (London, 1976), pp. 1617. I am preparing an edition of the Cocks diary for Oxford University Press.

33 Grey, A., Debates of the House of Commons from the Year 1667 to the Year 1694, 10 vols. (1769); The Parliamentary Diary of Narcissus Luttrell 1691–1693, ed. Horwitz, H. (Oxford, 1972). See also Debates in the House of Commons 1697–9,” ed. Hayton, D. W., Camden Miscellany 19 (1987).

34 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 33, 36v, 37v, 97v, 87, 85–84v, 79v, 74; 2, f. 8.

35 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 93v–92; Ludlow, E., A Voyce from the Watch Tower Part Five: 1660–1662, ed. Worden, A. B., Camden 4th ser., 21, (1978), p. 47; The Political and Commercial Works of Charles D'Avenant…, ed. SirWhitworth, Charles, 5 vols. (London, 1771), 3: 268–70.

36 Goldie, M., “The Civil Religion of James Harrington,” in Ideas in Context: The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europe, ed. Pagden, A. (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 206–22. Among other points, it is instructive to compare the tone of Cocks's attack on the apostolic succession with Neville's scepticism of the power of ordination “to metamorphose a poor lay idiot into a heavenly creature” (Robbins, , Two English Republican Tracts, p. 118).

37 Ibid., pp. 159, 181, 193, 195–6, 198–9.

38 Cocks, , True and Impartial Inquiry, p. 51; Over Shoes, Over Boots, p. 10.

39 I owe this comforting generalization to the researches of Mr. T. W. Keirn of the London School of Economics. In Cocks MS. 1, f. 37v, Sir Richard advances the claim that he has “put truth in a homely country dress.”

40 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 37v–38.

41 The discussion “of oaths” is Cocks MS. 1, ff. 32v–37. There is other relevant matter at Cocks MS. 2, f. 63v, and in Grand Jury Charge 1717, pp. 13–17, which asserts the right of resistance more positively.

42 Cocks MS. 1, f. 39.

43 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 36v, 90v, 87v; 2, ff. 3, 60v–61.

44 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 2, 4, 29v, 95; 2, ff. 45v, 53v.

45 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 27v, 28v, 30; 2, ff. 3v, 53v, 62v; Grand Jury Charge 1717, p. 13.

46 Cocks MS. 1, f. 39.

47 Cocks MS. 2, ff. 61–2. See also ibid., ff. 43, 45v, 63.

48 Hayton, D. W., “The Reorientation of Place Legislation in England in the 1690s,” Parliaments, Estates and Representation 5 (1985): 103–8, quoting a speech by Lord Mulgrave printed in Cobbett, W., The Parliamentary History of England, 36 vols. (London, 18061820), 5: 750; National Library of Wales, Canon Trevor Owen MSS., 192, draft of Elections Bill, 1695–6.

49 Cocks MS. 2, f. 61. This was the principle adopted in the abortive bill of 1702 to disfranchise Hindon, a borough notorious for its venality. The original intention of the bill was simply to add the borough Members to the county representation. It was amended so as to regulate the franchise rather than abolish it altogether, introducing a scot-and-lot qualification and bringing in £5 freeholders from the surrounding hundred. See H.M.C., House of Lords MSS., new ser, 5: 202–3. One of the moving spirits behind the bill was the Country Whig Thomas Jervoise, a man personally involved in elections in the borough and a friend of Cocks. His papers, at Hampshire R.O., contain a draft speech on the subject, [c. Nov. 1702], echoing Cocks's sentiments: “If once bribery is a means to get into this House,” it runs, “what can we expect but an utter subversion of our liberties?”

50 Cocks MS. 1, f. 73.

51 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 93v–92.

52 Cocks MS. 1, f. 90v. Contemporary denunciations of the corruption of the Commons and the vacuity of its debates are legion, though often they seem to signify no more than a conventional cynicism, ror two examples, see H.M.C., Fortescue MSS., 1: 18 (“Diamond” Pitt); and Lyme Letters 1660–1760, ed. Newton, Lady (London, 1925), p. 232 (Sir Michael Warton).

53 Robbins, , Two English Republican Tracts, p. 196.

54 Hayton, “Reorientation of Place Legislation”; Holmes, G. S., “The Attack on ‘the Influence of the Crown,’ 1702–6,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 39 (1966). Note the observation by the Tory Peter Shakerley in 1694, on proposals in the committee of ways and means for a tax on leather, that “this is what the courtiers do most desire; it would raise an unknown great sum of money, and create a great number of officers, which would make so many dependencies on them” (Cust, Albinia L., Chronicles of Erthig on the Dyke 2 vols. [London, 1914], 1:53). The contrast between the earlier and later 1690s can be overstated.

55 Brooks, C., “The Country Persuasion and Political Responsibility in England in the 1690s,” Parl., Estates and Rep. 4 (1984): 137.

56 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 83v, 85.

57 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 93, 75. See also ibid., f. 78v, for similar comments on another survivor from the 1670s, Sir Stephen Fox.

58 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 79, 29v.

59 The literature on this fascinating topic is extensive, and proliferating. See in particular Bahlman, D. W. R., The Moral Revolution of 1688 (New Haven, 1957); Curtis, T. C. and Speck, W. A., “The Societies for Reformation of Manners: A Case Study in the Theory and Practice of Reform,” Literature and History 3 (1976); Isaacs, Tina, “The Anglican Hierarchy and the Reformation of Manners 1688–1738,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 33 (1982); and especially Craig, A. G., “The Movement for the Reformation of Manners 1688–1715,” (Ph.D. thesis, Edinburgh University, 1980), which gives the ideology of the “reformation of manners” movement its vital political dimension. Also of specific relevance to the present discussion is Fletcher, A., Reform in the Provinces: The Government of Stuart England (New Haven, 1986), pp. 172, 273–7.

60 Craig, , “Reformation of Manners,” pp. 5, 14–15, 295, 299–300, 304.

61 B.L., Loan 29/70, Sir Edward Harley to Edward Harley, 2 Jan. 1691–2.

62 A Chapter in English Church History…, ed. McClure, E. (London, 1888), pp. 115, 122, 209, 321; Thompson, H. P., Thomas Bray (London, 1954), pp. 62, 76.

63 For Neville, see McClure, , Chapter in Eng. Church Hist., pp. 3, 130; C.S.P. Dom., 1700–2, p. 357; Manross, W. W., S.P.G. Papers in the Lambeth Palace Library… (Oxford, 1974), p. 216; Bodl. Lib., MS. Rawl. C.933, ff. 14, 31, 38. For Colchester, H.M.C., Portland MSS., 4: 14; Allen, W. O. B. and McClure, E., Two Hundred Years: The History of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 1698–1898 (London, 1898), pp. 13, 1617; Clarke, W. K. Lowther, A History of the S.P.C.K … (London, 1959), pp. 54, 57; Craig, , “Reformation of Manners,” pp. 26, 297. For King, Cocks MS. 2, f. 12v; C.S.P.Dom., 1700–2, p. 357; Manross, S.P.G. Pprs., p. 210; [King] The Second Part of the Enquiry into the Constitution, Discipline, Unity and Worship of the Primitive Church … (London, 1713), pp. 169–72. For Jervoise, see above, n. 49; McClure, , Chapter in Eng. Church Hist., p. 213; Bodl. Lib., MS. Rawl. C.933, f. 35; Hants. R.O., Jervoise MSS., 44M69/K/Pamphlets/224/1–2, 225/1–4, 304–52, (ex inf. Mr. L. K. Davison).

64 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 24–5, 27v, 28v, 30, 96, 95v, 94v, 92v, 85v; 2, ff. 32, 46v.

65 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 21 v, 25, 26, 30v, 31–32, 104v.

66 The Church of England Secur'd, p. 26.

67 Cocks MS. 1, f. 84v; True and Impartial Inquiry, pp. 18–19, 30, 34. On anti-popery in general in this period, see Haydon, C. M., “Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth-Century England c.1714–c.1780” (D.Phil, thesis, Oxford University, 1985).

68 The Church of England Secur'd, p. 27.

69 Ibid., p. 19.

70 A Perfect Discovery of Longitude, p. 19; The Church of England Secur'd, p. 38.

71 Bodl. Lib., MS. Eng. misc. b. 433, f. 32.

72 Ibid., f. 30.

73 The Church of England Secur'd, pp. 22–3.

74 Ibid., p. 17; True and Impartial Inquiry, p. 4; Farewel Sermon, p. 21; Cocks MS. 2, f. 23.

75 The Church of England Secur'd, pp. 10, 13.

76 Clark, J. C. D., English Society 1688–1832 (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 277–99.

77 The Church of England Secur'd, pp. 1–4, 11–13, 29; Over Shoes, Over Boots, p. 11ff; Farewel Sermon, pp. 4, 21; True and Impartial Inquiry, pp. 7, 12, 15.

78 The Church of England Secur'd, pp. 10, 15; Over Shoes, Over Boots, p. 10; Farewel Sermon, pp. 3–4, 21; True and Impartial Inquiry, pp. 12, 14; Cocks MS. 1, ff. 31, 40.

79 Cocks MS. 1, f. 39v.

80 Grand Jury Charge 1717, p. 4; Speck, W. A., Stability and Strife: England 1714–1760 (London, 1977), p. 6.

81 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 39v, 92v; Grand Jury Charge 1723, pp. 20–2.

82 Cocks MS. 1, f. 29v. See also ibid., ff. 29, 94v.

83 Cocks MS. 1, f. 90.

84 Cocks MS. 2, f. 60. See also Cocks MS. 1, ff. 29, 95v, 90, 81.

85 Macfarlane, S. M., “Studies in Poverty and Poor Relief in London at the End of the Seventeenth Century” (D.Phil, thesis, Oxford University, 1983), pp. 362, 378–82 (I am obliged to Professor Nicholas Rogers for drawing my attention to this thesis); Ransome, Mary, “The Parliamentary Career of Sir Humphry Mackworth 1701–1713,” Birmingham University Historical Journal 1 (19471948): 244–7.

86 Cocks MS. 2, ff. 58v–60. See also Cocks MS. 1, f. 81.

87 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 89v, 87.

88 Cocks MS. 1, f. 90.

89 Cocks MS. 2, ff. 2, 8.

90 Cocks MS. 1, f. 75v.

91 Cocks MS. 1, f. 74v.

92 Cocks MS. 2, f. 58.

93 Cocks MS. 1, f. 75. See also ibid., ff. 28, 94v.

94 Hervey Letter-Books, 1: 275; Molesworth, R., The Principles of a Real Whig… (London, 1775); Forbes, D., Hume's Philosophical Politics (London, 1975), pp. 138–50. I owe the last point to Professor Pocock.

95 Cocks MS. 1, f. 2v.

96 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 34, 36v; 2, f. 1. In this respect he differs radically from one modern commentator: Duke-Evans, J. B., “The Political Theory and Practice of the English Commonwealthsmen 1675–1725” (D.Phil, thesis, Oxford University, 1980).

97 Cocks MS. 2, f. 23.

98 Cocks MS. 1, f. 78v.

99 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 93, 91v; B.L., Add. MS. 34730, f. 250.

100 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 85, 83v.

101 Cocks MS. 1, ff. 78v, 77v–68v, passim; Surrey R.O., Somers MSS., 0/1/1, Mrs Burnet to Lady Jekyll, [c. Nov. 1701]; Guise Fam. Mems., p. 143.

102 Holmes, , British Politics, pp. 406–8; Speck, W. A., Tory and Whig: The Struggle in the Constituencies 1701–1715 (London, 1970), pp. 12.

103 Cocks MS. 1, f. 79v.

104 Cf. the interpretation of Cocks's charge to the Gloucestershire grand jury in 1723 advanced in Speck, W. A., “Whigs and Tories Dim Their Glories: English Political Parties under the First Two Georges,” in The Whig Ascendancy: Colloquies on Hanoverian England, ed. Cannon, J. (London, 1981), p. 63.

105 Grand Jury Charge 1723, pp. 15–16.

* An earlier version of this article was presented to a seminar at the Folger Center for the History of British Political Thought, which is supported by grants from the Research Programs Division of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, the George Washington University, and the Exxon Foundation. I am very grateful to the convenor of the seminar. Professor Howard Nenner, and to the members, especially Professors J. G. A. Pocock and Lois G. Schwoerer, for their close interest and criticism.

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